“Not Until You’re Twelve, Son”

We went shooting last night, for the first time in a while. We have a membership but sort of ironically, we haven’t been since they printed our card. It was still sitting there in the box.

Just got busy, I guess. Plus, the last couple of times I had felt really tired and I was having trouble focusing on the target. That’s something that’s definitely changed. And it’s okay, since you only have to visit about 69 times in toto to make the membership cheaper than doing a pay-as-you-go. We’ll probably get in a few more than that.

As we were leaving, I asked one of the guys working at the front if business had picked up lately, and he gave me an earful. You know, you hear about the uptick in gun sales and the like, but you don’t really know if it’s true.

He was having trouble buying certain types of guns, and all kinds of ammo. Since he shoots thousands of rounds a month, he makes his own and was having trouble getting the supplies for that. A lot of his biggest suppliers simply closed their websites, no backordering–nothing.

We also were there late at night in the middle of the week, and there were plenty of people.

They had a shotgun there, and they do actually allow you to shoot one but you have to buy their ammo ($20/25 shells, so pretty expensive). It also turned out that it was a customer’s shotgun and you had to bring your own. I checked on Google for prices and the first three places that turned up were sold out.

He said it had started with the economy and then gone ever crazier after the election and inauguration.

So, there’s your man-on-the-street reporting for the day.

Oh, and I sucked. I mean, I hit the target 95% of the time, but with my aim, I have to hope any attacker is a wimp, deterred by a series of flesh wounds.

More Fun With Superheroes and Politics

My post on the ultimate underlying message in Watchmen spurred some fun comments, including from Ron, who asks the eternal question:

hmmm…Is Superman a liberal?

Others have tackled this question, including those in charge of the heroes at the moment. However, there is an inherent simplicity that people often miss, which is touched on by Joe M:

I do suppose that that action is the logical extreme of super-heroism: hero is special and is therefore allowed to act outside the rules for normal people for the benefit of those normal people ; once you’ve placed hero outside the rule of law for the greater good, this kind of utilitarianism would be the end result, yes?

Almost. While superheroes do act outside “the rules” for normal people–for example, wearing their underwear outside their tights–they don’t act outside the law, or at least not much. The Batman, for example, will do some B&E, but not much beyond what any TV PI might do. It’s not against the law (yet) to stop a crime.

Traditionally, heroes and superheroes capture the criminal–but leave them to the law to prosecute.

So, what is the political framework of the masked hero genre? One might be tempted to suggest Objectivism, since John Galt is a sort of superhero.

But you have people who worked for–or were blessed with–abilities beyond that of normal people. They use those powers on a local, individual level to make others lives better. They don’t work for the state, but they do work with law enforcement agencies. They sacrifice personal lives for the good of the community, but not because they’re compelled to by an external authority. Rather they feel their ability to help translates to a responsibility to help. (This is a conservative value that has a perverse expression in the statist’s “you must do everything you can for the government, and accept whatever the government says you deserve in return”.)

Ultimately, then, what you have is a full-on conservative paradigm–classical liberalism, really. Until the ‘70s and ’80s, the masked vigilante operated on the principle that society was okay, except for a few criminal types and some organized crime rings. Even Spiderman, hounded as he was, had his most pernicious opponent in a corrupt tabloid journalist, not society per se.

Of course, comic book writers come in all political stripes, and like the rest of the arts have been seriously corrupted by statist ideologies, but even so, the very concept of the powerful individual using his power in a way to benefit society while not being under control of a ruling body is inherently conservative.

It’s no coincidence that when heroes are driven underground (Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The Incredibles), it’s the state that drives them underground. The state says, “No, you can’t be special.”

I don’t believe the USSR had superheroes. First of all, crime is not a problem in the worker’s paradise. Second of all, the glorious grand-poobah doesn’t need any help. Third of all, those gaudy outfits are a sign of western decadence. (Set me straight if I’m wrong on this.)

Even the “soft” fascism of modern “liberals” is anathema to the superhero paradigm. After all, why are some blessed with powers and abilities that others don’t have? Doesn’t that indicate unfairness in society? Why does Batman go every year to “Crime Alley” to beat up poor people? Why doesn’t Superman use his super-powers to spread the wealth around a little bit? He can make diamonds, why not diamonds for everybody?

The masked vigilante works by correcting aberrations in society. Society is okay, basically, but it can perverted by the dishonest. But once corrected, people are free to go about their business.

One of classical liberalism’s strengths, as well as its ultimate undoing, is that it creates a framework in which ideas can be freely expressed. Freedom of speech includes speech that undermines freedom of speech (the very concept of “hate speech”, to say nothing of gay activist and feminist groups agitating for repressive Islamic societies). So, with the genre firmly established in freer times, comic books are now free to speculate in ways that undermine their future.

And naturally, some do.

The difference between Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns is that the former says, “Man needs a super-powered guardians or he’ll destroy himself” (a truly statist message) where the latter says, “The more things go off the rails, the more heroic everyone has to act.”

But is Superman a liberal? Some people say so, because he fits the trappings of a liberal. Yet, he could easily achieve liberal goals and never does. A theme echoed by the Donner movies and found in the comic books I’ve read is that Superman has a respect for individual freedom. Individual freedom is supreme: In that sense, he’s positively libertarian; he won’t use his powers to take freedom from others. That’s a line for him, just like not killing is a line for Batman. (Superman is really an analogue for God, isn’t he? His power is “nigh” limitless, but he only grants a few miracles.)

What this all boils down to, unfortunately, is the misuse of the labels “liberal” and “conservative”. The only political struggle that matters is whether you’re for freedom or for coercion. Are you a statist? Are you convinced that the government could make everything right if only it had more power? As I’ve written, nothing in a free society keeps all the laudable goals of socialists from being achieved.

When Superman starts collecting taxes and throwing people in jail for economically oppressing the masses, I’ll believe he’s a “liberal”. If a masked vigilante agitates for statist government, he’s just a clown (I’m talking to you Green Arrow) or a mouthpiece for an artist who’s swallowed some propaganda.

Outliving Your Usefulness, Idiots

While many of Althouse’s commenters are threatening to leave or, more humorously, to strike, she did attract a useful idiot recently who goes by the name of Rob Prideaux. (If it’s this guy, and I think it is, he’s a photographer of no small talent.) The funny thing, of course, is that the useful idiots outlived their usefulness, by outliving the empire they served (knowingly or not).

Mr. Prideaux appeared in this thread about Condi Rice being objected to by one of Stanford’s finest, in defense of the academic system and liberals in general. Of course, many fine commenters at Althouse are liberal and not a few work in the university system, so there’s not much there there as far as defending the system from evil conservatives goes.

Prideaux’s argument began thus: “…how did all the neocons make it through university free of the indoctrination? How did the free market capitalists make it out with their free market theories intact?” In other words, to this fellow, if anyone escapes the system without an anti-free market mindset, that exonerates the system; it proves that the indoctrination doesn’t exist, or if it does exist, isn’t very effective and therefore not important.

He continues on this same vein, “What I think I’m saying is this: hyperbolic statements about all-powerful, unavoidable left wing indoctrination throughout the educational system are also dishonest.” Of course, no one actually argues that there is “all-powerful, unavoidable left wing indoctrination throughout the educational system”, only that there is left wing indoctrination and that the left is heavily overrepresented in the system, and given a freedom to indoctrinate that is one-sided.

To support his argument, he points to election results and says (my encapsulation of his argument), “See! If this indoctrination were going on, the Democrats would win by wider and wider margins! Since they don’t, QED, no indoctrination.” And he means this sincerely, which is the sad thing.

McCain–the allegedly not liberal candidate–was talking about the government buying up bad mortgages in his final gasps. And, of course, Obama went on to replace George W. Bush, who spent eight years expanding government worse than Clinton did. (But not worse than Clinton wanted to, which tells you something about any given party getting control of the legislative and executive branches.)

GHW Bush wasn’t much better, if at all, and even Reagan could only hold “the beast” level. His big idea, and the one that launched the Republicans in to power in ‘94, was the radical notion that government could and must be shrunk. “The era of big government is over,” lamented Clinton, with a fired-up Republican Congress at his back.

But even then, in what now we might refer to as the “salad days”, the minds of people have been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that, e.g., the government not handing out checks to poor people is a bad thing. It’s unthinkable that the government not manage retirement of old people. It’s monstrous to suggest that health and medicine be beyond the government’s scope of activities.

The liberal indoctrination is so thorough that it’s political suicide to suggest reforming social security, even while everyone agrees the plan is doomed (except for the short period when W was trying to reform it and the Democrats decided suddenly that it was just hunky dory).

More tragically, a smart–and I think honest, though you can never tell–guy like this is so thoroughly indoctrinated with leftist ideas that he can’t tell the difference between education and indoctrination. He thinks there isn’t any.

I’m pretty sure that would give Goldstein conniptions. In this view, education is basically indoctrination by whomever holds the power. There is no neutrality or objectivity. This viewpoint has, of course, destroyed the humanities, but we’ve seen it infiltrate Math, as well. The very concept that education is a matter of transferring data and establishing logical processes is alien to such people: All that matters is the outcome being the one we want and how it is arrived as is unimportant!

Of course, progressives believe their own viewpoints to have been soundly reasoned and beyond reproach. It is not they who are shackled by false ideas that they refuse to evaluate, but everyone else. And so, when Prideaux tried to get me to compromise the definition of education, and to back up the idea that left-wing indoctrination began as a deliberate action by enemies of classical liberalism, I wrote:

Actually, no, I don’t allow that there’s any overlap between education and indoctrination; in fact, I hold the two to be diametrically opposed. It is the difference between observation and evaluation. It does not even matter if the evaluation is correct!

I don’t really have time to go into detail about how this happened but you can see this at Hector’s place to get a sense of what was going on. This is the tail end of the effort (which has no survived the empire itself by over 15 years).

It’s not a small subject and universities are only part of it, but they’re an important part.

If you haven’t checked out Hector’s link, you should: The Soviet Union’s plot to destroy America through subversion was focused on education, media and government. It’s probably the biggest under-reported “open secret” around, and it’ll stay buried because, as Mr. Prideaux said in response:

@Blake –

I understand now.

Goodbye.

I mean, seriously, you don’t suggest to someone that they are, in fact, the tool of Stalin’s ghost and expect them to go “Wow! Yeah, that makes sense now!” You don’t expect them to admit that, yeah, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg really were spies, that whatever his personal flaws were, McCarthy wasn’t as paranoid as he’s made out to be, or even something simple, like their hero JFK hated Communists and would’ve found the stances of the modern left to be appalling.

It’s amazing, really, that anyone does.

Although he’s older than I am, this Lilek’s piece about Reagan is representative of how I felt through many of those years. It takes a decade or more for most of us just to shake off the indoctrination and group-think that came from the media air being saturated with a consistently leftist point-of-view.

Leftist indoctrination in education wasn’t nearly as bad back then but leftism saturated the media–there was no talk radio, there would be no right-wing movies until Reagan had been in office a couple of years (and we were also saturated with nuclear war fantasies, like Watchmen), and even hokey conservative TV values were more or less gone (with the notable exception of Mr. Carson). You could say that Reagan created the mind space (via Goldwater) that allowed non-progressive ideas to flourish (and in some cases, i.e., his repeal of the “fairness” doctrine created the real space for it).

If progressivism, leftism, communism, socialism, collectivism, and all these other failed -isms do finally die, I think it will not be with a big revelation. It will be a gradual (and sheepish) movement away from once fiercely held ideas, to the point where, well, you won’t be able to find anyone willing to admit they voted for Obama.

“You can’t use force!”

Red Eye’s TV’s Andy Levy tweeted about this footage of the final minutes of occupation of New York University’s Kimmel building, wherein some delusional “useful idiots” come up against cruel reality.

These guys were agitating for scholarships for Palestinian terroristsstudents–and oh, by the way, “tuition stabilization”. You know, that perfect mix of social activism combined with a healthy dollop of self-interest which gave us the draft riots of the ‘60s. (You can read the full list of demands here.)

The funny thing, though, is expressed by the notion that, somehow, the authorities are not allowed to use force, and the indignation of some of the protesters when they do. But of course that is what authority is, in this sense of the word: The right to use force to create conformity with social rules.

And a fair amount of force was used in the ’60s demonstrations that all subsequent protests seem to be modeled after. The whole concept of civil disobedience, in fact, is based on the premise that you can embarrass authority by forcing them to apply their power in the service of the blatantly unethical.

Hence the brilliance of an act like Rosa Parks sitting at the front of the bus. The awesome power of the state was used to punish a middle-aged working woman for sitting in an empty seat.

Rocket scientist/protest ringleader Alex Lotorto says (in the comment thread with the footage):

And by the way, my camera was a mechanism that probably prevented brutality like happened at New School in December where they weren’t on top of that as much…the black trench coat guy threw me an elbow and I was trying to keep a level head as people were panicking…the rest of the negotiations absolve me…I’m going to post those soon for you to poo poo.

Two things, Alex: First, your camera would have been confiscated and wiped if this were the fascist police state you imagine; second, the whole point–the raison d’etre, if you will–of civil resistance is to show up the authority’s reliance on violence.

If no one had bothered Rosa Parks, it would not have been the catalytic event for Civil Rights.

But, see, it’s morally abhorrent to segregate the races. And most people could particularly see that in a situation where a 40-plus working woman is required to stand. The absurdity is marked, and it makes a civilized person feel shame.

There’s a scene in David Lean’s Gandhi where Mahatma has Indians lining up to be beaten by the British. It’s so awful, you actually feel sorry for the British having to do this. That’s the point, really: The State is faceless and hungry for power, but it’s made up of humans with a sense of right and wrong. It’s those humans you address, even while being chewed up by the machine that is The State.

From the outside, you all look like a bunch of spoiled brats agitating about things you have no understanding of, with murky goals in mind, and some idea that The Man is going to roll over because you, what, exactly? Illegally occupied a building under the delusion that force couldn’t (and wouldn’t) be used to restore the building to its owners?

From a purely practical standpoint, you have a PR problem.

Also, it’s a bad idea to mix themes: You want to have some sort of financial input, apparently, okay. Most people would argue you’re not competent to have it, but maybe you can find a base there.

But throw in the terrorist love, and you’re going to lose some part of your base that agrees with your financial demands. Vice-versa, too, although I suspect that those who support Gaza don’t really care whether your financial demands would run the school into the ground.

The real problem is that you fail completely to demonstrate what moral wrong is being committed that validates your approach. I mean, you broke the law, and for what? Is it really and truly the case that all legitimate approaches for change were exhausted?

For a little while now, and for a little while longer, we’ve had a free-ish economy that allows you to purchase services from people you approve of, and not from those you don’t. This, in turn, allows you to protest in the most devastating way possible: By not giving money to people you don’t like.

We’ve also had (for a little while now, and for a little while longer) free-ish speech, which means you can encourage others to join your boycott.

If this doesn’t work, consider that maybe your hobby horse isn’t as important as you think it is.

But if your conscience tells you to take that extra step, committing what is, in essence, criminal acts, don’t be surprised if force is used–and people approve.

Stacked Decks

One of my dearest friends appeared in the pages of Playboy (not a centerfold) and related to me how much work it was to look like that. Hours of day spent working out, and otherwise engaged in self-maintenance, so that she could do the shoot and grace a couple of pages. (I said, “Hey, what about airbrushing?” and she assured me that whatever went on, it didn’t reduce the need to be absolutely devoted to appearance.)

So, I thought this Wired article was interesting, showing the growing disparity between Playboy centerfolds and average women. Now, it’s not a huge surprise. Breast implants mean you can be thin as a rail–which looks good in fashionable clothing–and still large-busted–which looks good everywhere else, except Parent-Teacher Night.

The article points out that the numbers are probably not true, and that they reflect more what the editorial staff thinks looks good, and I would tend to agree. First of all, there’s not that huge a difference between 50 years ago and today from what I can tell. The other thing is that the current Playmates (my friend graced the pages 20 years ago) I’d guess do a lot more lean muscle building so, if anything, their BMIs should be going up. (And since it’s by weight, implants would also increase BMI.)

What does trouble me, though, is the divergence in the two scales. A two point BMI difference is no big deal, which is where the scale starts. An eight point divergence, on the other hand, says something is screwy.

You Make Me “Glad”

I was doing my Judy Garland impression over at Troop’s–I’d been thinking of her tribute to Clark Gable as a 16-year-old neophyte at MGM anyway:

You made me love you
I didn’t want to do it
I didn’t want to do it
You made me love you
And all the time you knew it
I guess you always knew it

You made me happy sometimes
You made me glad

You made me “glad”. Now, this could just be a set-up for “But there were times, sir/When you made me feel so sad.” But it seems like I’ve seen this word come up before in songs of the era in a context like this that made me wonder if there weren’t some connotations to “glad”.

I’m not sure how you’d know. But Garland sounds suspiciously coy to me here.

Irony? Or Karma?

One of my pet formulations is that environmentalism (or ecology as it was drummed into me as a child) is a luxury. Poverty starves environmentalism like [some random fat celebrity] starves the other customers at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

To a man without shelter, a two-thousand year old redwood looks like a roof, some walls, maybe even a floor.

To a man without food, a spotted owl is a feast.

Now, one of the more obvious ramifications from environmental policies is poverty. Energy is more expensive because it’s too difficult to produce more of it, owing to various environmental restrictions, just for example. The Kyoto protocols would’ve cost us enormously even though, without them, we came closer to its goals than the nations that actually agreed to it, and those nations are dropping Kyoto like a hot potato in the face of serious economic problems.

Environmentalists are obsessed with our footprints. Not just our carbon footprints, but every resource we “consume” in our existence. This year’s Wall-E (a shoo-in for the animation Oscar) took as given the idea that consumerism would lead to the destruction of earth and our own near extinciton. But the lives led aboard the space station by the remaining humans didn’t really affect the earth, and I have to believe that most green-types would approve of that. (Although there was the curious issue of the space station making tons of trash, and no explanation of where the raw materials were coming from.)

Wealth is anathema to this crowd.

Their policies create poverty.

Poverty leads to resistance to their policies.

I just can’t figure out if that’s ironic or karmic.

Loudon Wainwright: Career Moves

This is probably not a huge interest to the pointy-breast-seekers, but I’m going to post it here, because the mailing list cut it off after the first line.

I’m a Loudon Wainwright III fan. No, there’s nothing you can do for me. No pills or shock treatment will work. I came to know the ol’ Loudo–as millions of other Americans did–from “M*A*S*H”, where he played Captain Spaulding, the Singing Surgeon.

His big hit was “Dead Skunk”, though I was more partial to “Unrequited to the Nth Degree”:

Oh, when I die
And it won’t be long
Hey you’re gonna be sorry
That you treated me wrong
Yeah, you’re gonna be sorry
That you treated me bad
And if there’s an afterlife
I’ll gloat and I’ll be glad


Most of his oeuvre, while irreverent is not as jokey as this, mind you. He’s quite the master of mixing serious and comedy (absurd, satirical, smartass–a pretty broad range) in the same song.

Anyway, about ten years ago, I joined an Internet mailing list devoted to him. It was quite novel at the time and I was pleased to find others who enjoyed the ol’ Loudo’s music.

LW3 is prolific. From 1997 (when I joined the list) till now, he’s released, I dunno, over a half dozen albums. And except for the live albums, every release has been met with bitching from the list about the production.

You see, Loudon’s first two albums were just him and guitar. And some people think that’s all he should ever be and do . There are other sorts of bitching that list-members endure, as well, such as bitching about “Social Studies”, which was an album of topical songs mostly written for NPR. (Loudon’s other albums tend to be intensely personal by contrast.) And now we get new bitching because he’s teamed up with Judd Apatow written music for the movie Knocked Up, as well as (gasp) doing a lot of performing others’ music. He’s not always performing alone anymore and he’s not always doing exclusively his own music. (Neither of these things are new, but he’s branching out to a new degree.)

Any other fan base would probably be ecstatic that their man–who turns 62 on Tuesday and does dozens and dozens of shows all around the world every year–is so prolific, and has a chance at some mainstream popularity. But Loudon fans are different. Loudon’s even written about it:

Some fans harass and stalk the big guy likes to talk
he knows every song what’s been good and gone wrong
he knows the story of my whole cheesy life
the name of each kid ex-girlfriend and wife
every label that I’ve every been on
yes he’s obsessed but he doesn’t fawn
though he understands cause he’s my biggest fan

But the biggest surprise asides his size
is just how hip he is when it comes to show biz
there’s a (triumberate) kind of top three
yeah there’s Bob then there’s Neil then there’s me
naturally Bobs number one and the runner up that’s Mr Young
I’m number three in command but he’s still my biggest fan
yeah hey I’m his third man but he’s still my biggest fan

Now that I’ve put in all this foundational material, I’m not really interested in reprinting what I put on the mailing list. (Yes, this is all new material, and I wrote a lot more in response to someone misguided rant. But now I’m bored with the my own rant. Heh.)

Short story: People who get together to talk about something–fan groups–tend to be insular and short-sighted. They tend to think they’re the whole world when they’re really a tiny piece of it. They’re particularly bad at making judgements vis a vis what will be successful in the real wide-world.

Also, as I’ve said over and over again, it would be death to any artist to read their own fan-group list. I can’t imagine anything more introverting and doubt-creating than listening to people like, well, like Loudon’s “biggest fan”, above.

How Do You Feel About Woody Allen?

Quoting myself from Althouse, where she lauds the new Allen movie Kathy Alameda Catalonia or whatever it’s called.

Allen movies are disturbing.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re the early comedies or the Manhattan-based dramas or this latest more generic seeming stuff. They all disturb.

They disturb in the way Glen and Glenda disturbs, though obviously with a lot more technical skill.

We’re living in a man’s neuroses for two hours. He’s proficient enough to costume them, somewhat, but they get under your skin.

I’ve been told people are more likely to have nightmares after seeing one of his movies than they are after seeing a horror movie. I don’t know if that’s true but it wouldn’t surprise me.

But, hey, that’s just my opinion (and it well predates the whole Soon Yi thing). You go ahead and enjoy the guy.

I’m not actually sold on the creepiness of the Soon Yi thing. I mean, it sure seems creepy. But it’s probably a good word of warning to women not to bring men into their lives if they have daughters who might be competition.

Is that horrible to say? Probably. I think it’s also probably true.

The other message, though, is probably about not marrying narcissists.

(This is the kind of thing that gets me into trouble over there.)